UNHCR expects refugee crisis as winter approaches

Joel Gulhane
3 Min Read

Up to a million people could be left “without proper help” this winter, according to the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday.

The shortfall in aid to the refugees comes as a result of a lack of funding, the UNHCR said. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq this year caused a sudden spike in the number of people fleeing violence.

Melissa Fleming, the UNHCR’s spokesperson said: “While the problem is most acute in Iraq and Syria, there are also needs in other parts of the region.”

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, Fleming said that the lack of funding has had a negative impact on the “winter preparedness programmes”.

The shortfall of $58.45m “means that UNHCR is having to make some very tough choices over who to prioritise”, she said.

The factors affecting these choices “include the elevation of refugee settlements, the composition of the family unit… family health concerns, new arrivals, available family resources, shelter conditions and other considerations”.

Fleming warned that conditions for those who are not prioritised “could nonetheless be very tough”.

In Egypt, one of the contributors to the regional response for the regional refugee crisis, UNHCR began “receiving calls from refugees seeking help to purchase warmer clothes and blankets for their children”.

UNHCR estimates that there are some 56,000 refugees in Egypt needing assistance to help them through the winter. However, due to lack of funding, “UNHCR will only be able to reach 38,000 of the most vulnerable refugees – or 60% of those in need of winterisation assistance”, according to the UN agency’s overview of the winter aid programme.

As part of the programme, refugees in Egypt “will receive $28 as a one-off contribution… with a maximum ceiling of $168 for families with six or more members”.

Like Syria and Iraq, other countries in the region, including Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are also suffering from a lack of funding to deal with the volume of refugees. The lack of funding could affect some 990,000 people, “mainly newly internally displaced people in Iraq and Syria”, said Fleming.


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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane
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